DILG: Nothing wrong with Bong Go, Francis Tolentino joining federalism roadshow

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — There's nothing wrong with two alter egos of the President speaking in the government's federalism roadshow, the Interior Department said Wednesday.

This comes amid criticism that the federalism information campaign is also becoming an early senatorial campaign for Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Francis Tolentino.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya maintains that it just "comes with their positions."

"You cannot question [Tolentino's] presence... As secretary for political affairs, it's his role to build political support for a shift to federal system of government," Malaya told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"If they are questioning (that) these people are going to run in the 2019 elections, let's wait for them to file their certificates of candidacy," he added. "As of now they are not candidates."

Malaya is the federalism campaign chief, tasked with overseeing the government's information campaign as the administration pushes for charter change.

Go was invited as the main speaker for the roadshow held earlier this month in Bicol, and he was represented by Tolentino. Both are in the ruling party PDP-Laban's draft list of senatorial candidates for 2019.

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Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday expressed concern over the event. She said while she was not opposed to it, it could have been used for private interests.

"Doon sa amin sa Bicol, maraming nagre-reklamo na mga kababayan ko na pinapunta sila... pero may mga nagsalita na mga kandidato para sa susunod na senatorial elections," said Robredo. "Bakit gagastusin iyong pera ng DILG para sa ganoon?"

[Translation: Many of my fellow Bicolanos complained that they had to go (to the roadshow)... but those who spoke were candidates in the upcoming senatorial elections. Why would the DILG spend money on that?]

Premature campaigning was not the only concern raised regarding the roadshow. The state news outlet People's Television Network (PTV) released a story on Saturday titled "Over (6,000) Bicolanos pledge support for federalism," which drew ire from netizens in the region. Many commented that they were in fact required to attend the gathering by their schools.

Malaya said that the DILG acknowledges that attendance did not equate to support of the new system of government. However, he maintained that those present were not required to attend the forum.

"We saw that the people were receptive of the message we were bringing," he added.

Malaya shared that the government had a budget of around ₱100 million for the campaign, which he said was just "peanuts" for a national information drive.